The Reserve Bank of India has received an application from Annapurna Finance Pvt Ltd (AFPL), formerly known as Annapurna Microfinance Pvt Ltd, under the Guidelines for ‘on tap’ Licensing of Universal Banks in the Private Sector.

The microfinance institution was the only entity to apply for a universal bank licence during the quarter ended December 31, 2022.

AFPL was initially promoted in 1990 as a society by the name of People’s Forum (PF) by Gobinda Chandra Pattanaik in Odisha, according to a CARE Ratings report. It started operations in Khurda district of Orissa with the objective to form and promote self-help groups (SHGs) and socio-economic development.

In November 2009, PF acquired Gwalior Finance and Leasing Company Private Limited, an NBFC registered in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) and transferred its microfinance loan portfolio to the NBFC. The name of the NBFC was changed to Annapurna Microfinance Pvt Ltd (AMPL) in February 2010 and to its present name in January 2018, per the report.

AFPL is engaged in micro finance lending to women borrowers under SHGs, Joint Liability Group (JLG) as well as individual loans, housing loans and MSME loans.

According to AFPL’s FY22 annual report, the NBFC-MFI has operations in 20 States (984 branches), caters to more than 2.3 million clients, and has a gross loan portfolio of 6,553.4 crore as at March-end 2022.

In April 2021, RBI had released the names of four applicants – UAE Exchange and Financial Services Ltd, The Repatriates Cooperative Finance and Development Bank Ltd (REPCO Bank), Chaitanya India Fin Credit Pvt Ltd and Pankaj Vaish and others –  under Guidelines for ‘on tap’ Licensing of Universal Banks.

However, in May 2022, the central bank announced via a statement that these four entities were not found suitable under the guidelines.